Google’s Interview Questions - Out With the Old, In With the New 

Good Interview Questions. Google’s Interview Questions – Out With the Old, In With the New

Google has maintained leadership in the competitive Tech Sector by getting the best people. Hiring the right people supports Google’s continued innovation. In fact, they have such a good reputation for hiring good people that having Google on your CV is a stamp of approval.

But they're not the only ones going to great measures to hire the best employees:

  • This is how Richard Branson looks at the person behind the resume and,
  • This is how Steve Jobs built his team of A+ players by personally interviewing applicants and only hiring the best,
  • These are some of the bizarre interview techniques that Zappos uses to ensure that candidates are a good culture fit.

Google’s Unconventional Management Practices are Notorious.

There are many urban legends about their unusual hiring practices. To see how the rest of us can duplicate Google’s success, this article will explore Google’s hiring practices. We will explore the surprising things that Google has learnt about hiring and establish what the everyday manager can use in their workplace to get the right person for the job. In particular we will focus on interview questions to understand what is a good interview question and what isn't. 

What Has Google Stopped Looking for in Employees

In an interview with the New York Times, Google's senior Vice President of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, explains what they look for in job candidates. 

He starts with what they don't look for – GPAs because they "don't predict anything." Bock goes on to say that, while a college education is naturally preferred, the number of people getting jobs at Google without a college degree has grown over time. 

But this wasn’t always the case. In the past Google had a reputation for outrageous interviewing protocol: 

  • They would hardly look at applicants who hadn't gone to an Ivy League school, MIT, Cal Tech, or Stanford;
  • GPA’s were important and they would even ask executives and engineers in their mid-30s about their college grades;
  • Worst of all Google HR would ask applicants insanely difficult "brain teaser" interview questions

Why Google Stopped Using Brainteaser Questions

So how bad could brain teaser questions possibly be? 

“On the hiring side, we found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane? How many gas stations in Manhattan? - A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.” And that’s precisely why Google “banned” them.

Laszlo Bock 

What Does Google Look for in New Employees?

Well that brings us to Google’s NEW recruitment strategy. Bock says that now, “the number one thing we look for is general cognitive ability - and it's not I.Q. It's learning ability. It's the ability to process on the fly. It's the ability to pull together disparate bits of information. We assess this using structured behavioral interviews that we validate to make sure they're predictive." 

Bock says that structured behavioral interviews enables the interviewer to have "a consistent rubric for how you assess people, rather than having each interviewer just make stuff up." 

What are Good Interview Questions Then?

In other words, good interview questions are interview questions that predict future performance. And the best predictor of future performance is past behaviors. The interview questions that Google uses to test behaviors are (surprisingly) called Behavioral Interview Questions

Behavioral Interview Questions 

Behavioral based interviewing tests how the interviewee acted in specific past situations. This works because how you behaved in the past is a good indicator of how you will behave in the future. Plus, how candidates use their skills in real-life situations is a good indication of their potential. 

How Behavioral Interviews Relate to the STAR Interview Technique

The behavioral interview method is sometimes referred to as the STAR interview technique. The concept behind the acronym is that behavioral interview questions should address: 

S – Specific Situations;

T – The Tasks That Needed to be Done;

A – The Actions the Candidate Took;

R – The Result/ Outcome. 

Behavioral Interviews in Practice

For example, a typical interview question might be "Have you had experience managing budgets in the past?" and the typical answer would be, "Yes I have," which doesn’t give you any indication of whether or not the candidate did so competently. 

On the other hand, a more effective behavioral interview question would be "Can you tell me about a time when you had to manage a budget and what you did?" Answer, "I had a 10% reduction in my cost budget of $2.5m and I achieved this by having a brainstorming meeting with my team, to identify non-value added spend. We prioritized savings using an assessment method I made for the job. And we achieved the 10% reduction without any adverse impact to our deliverables.” 

There you have it - behavioral interview questions are good interview questions. Because behavioral interview questions give the interviewer greater insight about the candidate’s competencies. 

If it Aint Broke, Don't Fix It - Good Interview Techniques

Behavioral Interview Questions aren't anything new - they've been around for several years. So Google has decided in this case to stick with tried and tested interviewing techniques that work. Google has realized that good interview questions don't have to be innovative, they just need to work. The innovative thing is to use Behavioral Interview Questions when so many other companies don't.

What I like about this is that Behavioral Interview Questions can be used by any manager doing recruiting. A lot of what Google does is out of the reach of the typical manager. But any manager can use Behavioral Interview Questions to get the right staff for the job. And when you get the right employees then your life as a manager will become a lot easier and company performance will increase. I will share some help about how you can use Behavioral Interview Questions a bit later in this post. 

How to Truly Assess a New Hire's Ability

In his interview with the New York Times, Bock goes on to say; "The interesting thing about the behavioral interview is that when you ask somebody to speak to their own experience, and you drill into that, you get two kinds of information. One is you get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation. And the valuable 'meta' information you get about the candidate is a sense of what they consider to be difficult." 

It seems pretty obvious to say it but Google has learnt that the right person for the job is the person with the ability to do the job. But what Google has learnt is that the schools someone went to, the grades they got and their IQ are not good indicators of ability. Google has found that the best predictor of future ability is past performance. And the best interview questions to test ability are behavioral interview questions. You can also use good interview questions to get good staff just like Google does. 

How do you Use Behavioural Interview Questions? 

Using good interview questions is key to effective hiring. It’s also a task that may seem quite daunting at the outset. Creating a customized interview that comprehensively evaluates and compares job candidates is difficult. 

My prior experience of interviewing has been (and maybe you've had the same experience):

  • By the 5th interview the candidates start to blur into each other - making it difficult to compare candidates,
  • Not having a good way of assessing candidates skills as matched to the job and then,
  • Only finding out how good a candidate is when they start the job,
  • Ending up in time wasted and some painful, expensive mistakes. 

That’s why I’ve developed an Interview Question and Assessment Guide to help you get the best employee for the job. It's a FREE download that contains everything that you need to: 

  • Create a customized interview;
  • Run a consistent interview process every time;
  • Effectively evaluate skills and competencies;
  • Compare job candidates against each other and;
  • Get the best person for the job and avoid bad hires.

P.S - There are so many considerations when hiring new employees and the recruitment process is loaded with pitfalls. That's why I've developed the program. It shows you proven techniques for employee selection, motivation and retention in just an hour a week.


Do you have any interviewing tips and suggestions? Help the rest of us by sharing in the comments below.

Side Note to Managers

Are you hiring to replace a bad employee? 

Here's some food for thought. Hiring is a costly process. There are obvious costs like recruitment fees. But add in manager time, training and waiting for the employee to get up to speed and it’s not far off an annual salary. Ditto when things go wrong. The total cost of a bad hire is a minimum of 25% of their salary but could be over one and a half times their annual cost.  So is it worth the time, pain and cost of hiring someone new to replace your bad employee? What if I told you that there is an easy and time-efficient management technique that you can use to engage your employees, improve productivity and make managing easy.

Special mention about one-on-one meetings

Do you know that regular, high quality one-on-ones with your employees are the single easiest management practice. Do one-on-ones right and not only can you can take care of almost all your management responsibilities in one go but you will also:

  • Improve employee engagement,
  • Boost productivity,
  • Build better relationships with your staff.

That's why I made a mini-course on one-on-ones (including a one-on-one template with a one-on-one meeting agenda) which will show you 3 Easy Steps 2 1 on 1's. What I expect you'll find is that you already know some of the content on some type of level but maybe you're not putting it into practice. This will help. As I say this is essential for new managers and helpful for experienced managers.

The Hiring and Interviewing Series

This is part of the Interviewing and Hiring Series. This series covers how managers can increase employee performance through hiring better employees. And how managers can avoid common hiring mistakes.

Topics in the Series Include:

Other Relevant Resources:

Power Interview Pack: The complete set of interview questions to get the best candidate for the job. Increase employee performance through hiring the best staff and avoiding bad hires. Link here. 

Hiring for Performance: How to hire the best employees and improve employee performance, engagement and retention. Link here.  

Employee Onboarding for Performance: If employee onboarding goes wrong, your new hire may leave you in the lurch or become a demotivated low performer. But motivate and integrate your new hire well and you will have a happy, productive team member. Link here.


Boss Camp

Job-seekers join great companies but leave because of bad bosses. WWW.BOSS.CAMP is about ethical management. Showing you the secrets behind employee selections, motivation and retention. With free range, organic, gluten free, ethical management techniques. The program includes topics such as:

  • How to hire for performance,
  • How to motivate employees,
  • What are bad employee motivators,
  • What you must do as a manager but isn't on your job description,
  • How leaders get power.